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Improved Initiative: Worth it for a smash you in face character?


I'm looking at Improved Initiative and wondering how effective it is for a fighting type of character like a fighter, barbarian or monk.

Going early in a round is always more fun but the thing with initiative is that you only roll it once per combat. Rolls for attacks, dmg and saves are done almost every round so a bonus to those is felt throughout combat. Once the first round is passed, initiative hardly feels very important...and the fact that you only roll it once per combat makes the result still pretty volatile. Characters with Improved Initiative still often loses initiative to characters without the feat.

For casters, the feat is obviously important since a high level caster can often end the fight pretty quickly. However, for fighters it's often just as good to have the enemy move to you and have you be the first to do a full attack.

Seems the main reason you'd want to stack up bonus to initative for a fighter or monk is to give you more chance to run after that high level caster....

What are your thoughts on this? Is it worth it for a fighter type to burn a feat on Improved initiative?


The Exchange

I think that it's always worth looking into it. I cannot begin to tell you how many times a cavalier of mine would roll 1s or 2s for Init and then 18+ for skills, so having the extra +4 helped with those. It really depends on the character.

For example: A monk who is designed to Trip or Grapple going first would take down an enemy so that your fighter can get in to beat him down. Another example is that your fighter goes first so that the monk isn't the main target.

A wise man once said "YMMV" and it applies to almost everything someone can ask advice for.

Shadow Lodge

If you don't have any vital in-combat abilities that need activating, such as rage, spells or smites, then Imp. Initiative is only as good as your enemy is dangerous on their first round.

Barbarians love going first, since they look pretty silly without their rage(been there) and almost all of their abilities sans hp are tied to an ability that requires a free action to active. Similarly, while paladins might be better off in the defenses front and are less tied to a singular ability, they can't use lay-on-hands flat-footed or indeed smite anything.

Now if you are, say, a ranger, initiative will be less important. Nothing except the difference between being reactive or proactive is reliant on going first.

It can be important for some characters to be able to move first in a fight for a number of reasons, such as buffing up (with spells, potions, or otherwise) or using an AoE that doesn't discriminate between friend and foe. If you don't have anything like that, it probably isn't as important that you get Imp. Initiative, but it never really hurts to have it if you are somehow at a loss for what to take. If nothing else, it reduces the chance you are flat footed when the early attacks are coming at you.


If you are two hander user you won't need that many feats so it can be worth it. The higher the level, the better it is. I would pick it maybe on barbarian around 5th or 7th level, but it depends what you wanna play.

Going first is always a good thing.

1. You get an action before your opponent. No matter how you use this, i.e. buffing, debuffing, positioning, crowd-controlling, summoning, or just for some straight-out damage (or anything else you might wish to do), you are giving yourself a better chance against your opponent(s).

2. You are no longer flat-footed. For a heavy armor wearing, <10 dex, melee type, this is no big deal. For high level rogue or barbarian, this is no big deal. For the rest of us...

3. You can decide when you act. Sometimes it is not the best option to act early in the round. You can delay or ready and dictate exactly when you do act. This is great for any character who relies on flanking or teamwork in general, even if that's not specifically you.

4. Unless you were surprised, your opponents are flat-footed. This can be pretty significant for melee types that need to move through threatened areas, charge, make a combat maneuver for which they don't have improved feats, or just be able to hit with all of their iterative attacks, etc.

5. So, the first round is over, and your opponent is still standing? Read #1. It is still true.

All of that said, Improved Initiative is not an automatic must take feat. But, it is definitely worth a strong consideration.

Its a feat that is useful to every character. Its up to you decide if you need other feats more than than one, or if you can live with not having it. Will it make a difference in how combat plays out? Sometimes yes.

I look at it like this :

If you are a class that has a sneak attack type ability it is awesome, you go first means more than likely you get bonus damage.

If you are a controller type caster, great, you can set the battlefield, but I would take metamagic and spell feats first.

If you are a healer, it does not really matter. Take it if you want, it is not like their are a lot of good divine caster feats anyway.

If you are a big dumb damage monkey, it really does not matter. If you are a fighter, sure take it, you have plenty of feats anyway. Barbarian or other strict melee/ranged type, meh.

All in all it depends on your class and role. Sometimes it is one of the best feats you cna get, others it is not really going to matter.

Pathfinder is filled with things that can do horrible things to you each round...being able to do your horrible things first is always an advantage...especially if your the average two handed dps monster that doesn't have a ton of AC taking them out first before you start taking full attacks can be the difference between life and death or at least a lot of hp.

Also attack all your opponents when their flat footed is always nice.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Out of over half a dozen PFS characters that I've played, exactly one has invested in initiative in any way. It's fun with that PC, but none of my others really miss it.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Also consider what the rest of your party is doing. I frequently play a ranged character, but quite a few people I play with use tripping builds. Thus it's very important for me to go before them, so my targets aren't prone on my turn. (Better communication should help, but hasn't)

Thanks guys.

To put this more into context, my character is actually defensive grappling Monk. I'm either looking at taking this feat or Crane Wing...

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High Initiative is never bad, because you can always lower it if necessary, but it may not be necessary.

For a melee fighter, it may be better to wait for enemies to come close so you can full attack them, but that is not always a viable strategy.

Casters should always try and go first, so they can buff allies, debuff enemies and control the battlefield ASAP.

Barbarians are the melee class that most benefits from a high initiative, not only because they get to activate Rage sooner, but because Pounce allows them to run at the enemy and still make a full attack.
And with Rage Powers like "Come and Get Me", they can actually benefit from provoking AoOs!

Shadow Lodge

If I'm taking Improved Initiative, I'd also take the trait that gives +2 to initiative (Reactionary? can't quite remember).

In the past I've avoided Improved Initiative because I didn't realise just how drastically going before the bad guys in combat makes a difference, but it really is huge for all the reasons The Crusader pointed out above. Having the whole party go before the bad guys in an encounter is an enormous, enormous advantage.

Hey, for a 20th level evil one-shot adventure, I built a Barbarian/Anti-Paladin with +15 to Initiative...

+2 trait; +4 Improved Initiative; +4 Dueling Weapon and +5 Dexterity.

Start the combat, Rage and Pounce the enemy for 2d4+53 damage per hit! 2d4+58 if they can cast spells or have any spell-like or supernatural ability! (So... Anything except a Fighter).

Shadow Lodge

Reactionary is cool, but having every other character being a bullied, twitchy type of deal gets old fast.

That said, there's always Ekujae Reflexes.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Eh, Improved initiative is not that great for most melee characters IMHO. Unless your character has a high dex build being flat footed isn't a big deal. And if you get melee attacked, you probably will have a full attack available while your opponent only had a single attack (a charge action or standard attack). Its also really annoying when the party melee specialist goes first gets into melee before the archers, mages and other ranged characters get to attack, or before the buff classes get to apply buffs.

So many times I see the melee guy go off into combat before anything to affect combat has been applied. So many times I've seen that same character block shots from other party members, and miss out on buffs. Then they get hit with full attacks and now the party cleric gets his turn stolen having to heal/protect the BDF rather than cast his buffs/debuffs.

Oh, the party fighter could just delay, or ready a std action against approach ect. Well then why did he want to go first so bad?

Leave the improved initiative to the party members that need clear fire lanes or that apply buffs/debuffs/crowd control. The party fighter doesn't need it, save the feat for something else.

If you have a bard, initiative isn't that great for a brawler.

If you're a lancer though, initiative is really nice. The problem still being that a lancer needs a ton of feats.

Grand Lodge

IMHO - acting first is important for two character types:

A) Almost all casters. Blasters get better blasts off, buffers have everyone together, and control casters control better.

B) Sneak attackers - free sneak attack on flat footed, and can delay actions to take advantage of flanking immediately when it becomes available.

Its nice for everyone else, but hardly as vital as for these two. Now there would be exceptions, as someone said a control monk it may be more important for, but personally I'd only take the feat for rogue/wizard types.

To me beating your party casters, buffers, and ranged chars isn't the goal, its beating the enemy. If you beat your friends but all of you beat the enemy you can delay hold action as suits your tactics. If you beat the rest of the party and the enemy beats them to you still have the advantage of setting up combat how you want. You can move out to protect the squishy chars, take out the most dangerous enemy, ect. If you lose initiative to everyone your going to get pounded and your party might to.

Going first gives you lots of tactical options and puts you on the attack rather then having to react to the enemy. Benefits greatly outweigh the precised tactical limitations which only exist if your not comfortable from time to time delaying actions.

edit: my outlook might be colored by the fact that our normal gm optimizes to a scary degree so losing initiative is often a very bad thing.

Only worth it if you've got a ton of feats to spare. But even then, there's probably always a better one to take (Iron will, Extra Traits for more +1's to will...) Now if you're going for Pounce, then improved init makes a lot more sense. Otherwise BDF, let them come to you, and crush them for their arrogance.

If the casters/controllers go first, they can throw down the obscuring mist if you're being ambushed by assassins, and that's the only downside I can see if you're caught flat footed.

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